The Pi-Rate Ratings

March 26, 2010

A PiRate Preview of Saturday’s Regional Final Games

 

Saturday’s Regional Finals

Advanced Level Bracketnomics

 

Thursday night’s regional semifinal games proved that the PiRate NCAA Tournament formula is based on sound principles.  The teams that earned the most scoring opportunities won the games, even though they didn’t all shoot better from the field or at the charity stripe.

By more scoring opportunities, we refer to the team that fares better in controlling the boards and in turnovers.  As we have previously stated, a turnover created is worth a little more than a rebound, and a steal is worth more than any other turnover.

Butler stole the ball 13 times and ended with a +11 turnover margin against Syracuse.  The Orangemen won the battle of the boards by six, but that left the Bulldogs with a huge R+T advantage.

West Virginia dominated Washington on the glass, winning the rebounding margin by 16.  They won the turnover battle in almost a wash, and when a team has a +16 rebounding advantage with equalization in turnovers, they win about 98% of the time.

Kansas State and Xavier played possibly the best game in the entire tournament so far.  The Wildcats were outrebounded by two but had a +4 turnover margin.  They only picked up four steals, so they enjoyed only a marginal scoring opportunity advantage.  Thus, you had a terrific, nail-biter.

Kentucky dominated Cornell in the R+T rating, and the Wildcats proved that 3-point and free throw shooting isn’t as important as number of scoring opportunities when you make it this far.  UK made just 2 of 16 from behind the arc and hit just 16 of 26 from the foul line.

Here is the PiRate preview for Saturday’s two regional final games.  We will preview Sunday’s games tomorrow.

East Regional

 

#1 Kentucky (29.22) vs. #2 West Virginia (29.08)

Look at those criteria scores.  14/100’s of a point converts to less than a one-point edge for the Wildcats.

Yes friends, this is going to be a great game between teams that should be playing each other every year. 

We see three keys to this game.  First, will West Virginia be able to get the ball inside against Kentucky’s inside defenders and force fouls from DeMarcus Cousins and Daniel Orton?  Second, will Kentucky’s perimeter shooters, John Wall, Eric Bledsoe, and even big man Patrick Patterson, be able to force WVU to play honest defense and lesson their ability to cheat inside?  Third, and maybe most importantly, will West Virginia’s forwards, Da’Sean Butler, Kevin Jones, and Devin Ebanks be able to match Cousins, Orton, and Patterson on the glass?

Kentucky had been hitting well from outside prior to the Cornell game.  They got the open shots and couldn’t sink them.  If they repeat that performance, Wall, Cousins, Patterson, and Bledsoe may be multi-millionaires before they take another shot in an official game.

West Virginia is used to winning games where they shoot around 40%.  Kentucky has done it too.  This game is going to come down to the inside muscle game.  The team with the most offensive put backs is going to win.  If Cousins stays out of foul trouble, he will see to it that the blue and white win that battle.

We expect WVU to slow down the pace and attack inside-out.  60 points could be enough to win it; we believe the Blue Mist will have one second-half spurt to sew this game up.

Prediction: Kentucky 62  West Virginia 55

 

 

West Regional

 

#2 Kansas State (31.21) vs. #5 Butler (19.35)

Kansas State just barely survived and advanced Thursday night, and they could be in line to bounce somewhat.  Butler is in the same situation; they had a draining game with Syracuse.  We look for this one to be sloppy and low-scoring with defense being at a premium.

It’s hard to pick against a team that last lost prior to Christmas and plays about as well as a team as the best Indiana teams under Bob Knight.

There are a couple of important keys in this game.  The only way Butler can win is to force more turnovers again like they did against Syracuse.  Kansas State will make their share of mistakes, but they make a lot of them in the commission of trying to run and get easy baskets.  We don’t think the Bulldogs will get to exploit this part of the game.

The other key is the Kansas State inside game.  KSU has too many horses inside for BU.  The Bulldogs will wear down inside against the Wildcats quartet of big men.  Jamar Samuels, Curtis Kelly, Dominique Sutton, and Luis Colon will combine for about 100 minutes of playing time in this game, and they will combine for 25 rebounds or more.  Butler just doesn’t have enough inside to match that.  Post man Matt Howard is foul prone, and he is likely to miss a good chunk of this game trying to prevent KSU’s big men from getting offensive rebounds and second chance points.

What’s tough here is that Kansas State’s top scorers are their two perimeter stars.  Jacob Pullen and Denis Clemente usually combine for 35 points per game, and if they top 30 in this game, the Wildcats will be headed to the Final Four for the first time since Tex Winter and his triple post (since renamed triangle) offense knocked off defending national champion Texas Western and Wichita State to advance against undefeated UCLA in 1964.

Prediction: Kansas State 64  Butler 54

 

Check back with us Saturday afternoon for a preview of Sunday’s Elite 8 South and Midwest Regional Final games.

 

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March 24, 2010

Sweet 16 Preview

 

From Sweet to Elite

Advanced Level Bracketnomics

 

Hello PiRate Basketball fans.  Our system worked well, but the idiots (us) in charge of the data didn’t have the guts to play all the upsets.  We still have nine teams alive, and our top-rated teams according to our system are still there, except for Kansas. 

We told you in the first round that Georgetown and Vanderbilt were the most ripe for upset bids based on their R+T scores just barely above zero.  We were there on other double-digit ups as well.

Before we preview the Sweet 16 games, let’s refresh you on the PiRate formula components.

Scoring Margin—We look for teams with a minimum scoring margin of 8 points per game, give precedence to teams with double-digit scoring margins, and develop huge crushes on teams with scoring margins of 15 or more points per game.  We award one point for as little as a 5-point scoring margin, 3 points for 8 or more, and 5 points for 10 or more. 

Teams with a negative margin who have made it to the Sweet 16 are eliminated and are automatically picked to lose the next game (unless of course there is a rare instance of their opponent also qualifying for elimination.)

Field Goal % Margin—We look for teams that have a +7.5 or better difference in field goal percentage versus opponents’ field goal percentage.  We give special consideration to teams with double-digit field goal percentage margins, and if we see a team hitting better than 48.0% and yielding less than 38.0%, we circle that team in red because they are going to be tough to beat if they are a member of one of the Big Six conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, or SEC).  We award one point for FG% margins of 5.0 or more, 3 points for margins of 7.5% or more, and 5 points for double-digit margins. 

Like above, teams arriving at the Sweet 16 with a negative field goal margin are eliminated.

Rebound Margin—This is actually part of a multiple statistical entry, as we combine it with turnover margin as well.  However, we do separate rebounding because offensive put backs are vitally important in the Big Dance.  We are looking for teams with a +5.0 or better rebounding margin.  We award one point for a rebounding margin of 3.0 or better and 3 points for a margin of 5.0 or better. 

Teams with a negative rebounding margin receive -2 points, but they are not eliminated yet.

Turnover Margin & Steals Per Game—Teams with negative rebounding margins can make up for it with exceptional turnover margins, especially if they get a lot of steals that lead to great fast break opportunities.  We don’t award points solely on turnover margin and steals; we incorporate those stats into a multi-statistical formula we call “R+T.” 

R+T is a formula that applies weighted advantages to steals and turnover margin, while adding rebounding margin into the equation.  Rebounding margin is already factored into the formula by itself, but it receives fewer awarded points.  This stat balances out the rebounding with the scoring and field goal margin, and it allows us to look at the number of extra scoring opportunities a team normally receives. 

The Formula for R+T is:  R+ (.2S*1.2T), where R is rebounding margin, S is steals per game, and T is turnover margin.  Whenever this stat is negative, this team is immediately eliminated.  If this stat is less than one, don’t figure on this team staying around in the Dance.  All four teams that fell below one in R+T lost in the first round, including heavy favored Georgetown and Vanderbilt.  We award the result of the R+T in points.

Power Conference & Strength of Schedule—We give extra weight to teams that are members of the Big Six conferences.  We give a little weight to the teams from the top of the mid-majors (such as Missouri Valley, West Coast, Colonial, and Mountain West).  We deduct for teams from the lower conferences (such as America East, MAAC, Big West, and Patriot). 

We look at the strength of schedule as produced by cbssports.com, and multiply that number by 100.  50.00 is a mid-point, so if that number is 52.37, we consider that schedule to be 2.37 points stronger than average.  If the number is 46.28, then that schedule is 3.72 points weaker than average.  This is incorporated into our criteria.

Record Away From Home—Every team is playing on a neutral floor, so we throw out the home won-loss records.  A team that is 26-9 overall, but 17-0 at home is actually a .500 team away from home.  Likewise, in some rare instances a team might be 22-10 with a home record of 14-6 and a record away from home of 8-4.  Winning two –thirds of one’s games away from home would make this team more likely to beat the 26-9 team on a neutral floor, all else being equal.

Before the first round, our formula picked Duke as the overall favorite based on their 34.4 PiRate score.  The Blue Devils no longer own the top score after the first two rounds.  Their criteria score fell a little, while another team elevated just enough to post a higher score.  The new leader in the clubhouse is none other than Kansas State.  This surprised us all here, but the Wildcats were impressive in wins over North Texas and BYU.  Their defense was stifling, and their offense, while not spectacular, clicked in spurts.  KSU controlled the boards in both games as well.

The Wildcats have had few great moments since in the last 20+ years.  This team is starting to bring back memories of the glory days in the Little Apple when Tex Winter introduced his triple-post (triangle) offense and Jack Gardner had the Cats running and gunning.

Of the 16 teams remaining, five come from conferences outside of the Big Six conferences, but each of the quintet’s PiRate criteria scores reveals that they belong in the Sweet 16.  None of the five (none of the entire 16) have scores in single digits.

Now, it’s time to look at the eight, Sweet 16 games, using these criteria.  The number you see in (Parentheses) after the team is their PiRate Criteria Score.  All of these scores have been update to reflect their two wins in the Big Dance.                                                                            

 

East Regional

 

#1 Kentucky (29.22) vs. #12 Cornell (14.56)

The Wildcats are the one team that also qualifies in the 48-38% field goal margin.  John Calipari no longer officially owns any Final Four appearances to his name, after the NCAA upheld the vacating of all Memphis wins during Derrick Rose’s playing career (his U Mass team had to vacate that appearance as well).  So, we can say he is still looking for his first official visit to the Final Four.  We don’t know with 100% certainty if the Wildcats will make it there, but we are safe in saying they will be one of the Elite 8.  Cornell cannot stop DeMarcus Cousins inside unless they totally sell out on the perimeter.  John Wall and Eric Bledsoe will make the Big Red pay for that tactic, and then Patrick Patterson will break their backs if he hits a three.

Cornell might stay close through one or two TV timeouts, but this game should get out of hand before halftime.

 

Prediction: Kentucky 88  Cornell 64

 

#2 West Virginia (29.08) vs. #11 Washington (21.93)

West Virginia wins ugly.  The Mountaineers don’t look pretty, but they keep pounding at opponents until they see an opening.  Then, like a crafty boxer, they exploit that opening and grab the lead on points.  They rarely record a knockout, but they are great at keeping the lead once they get it in the final half.

Washington does look pretty when they play.  Lorenzo Romar’s teams vaguely resemble many of the great UCLA teams from the past.  With Quincy Pondexter and Isaiah Thomas providing a great one-two punch, it is hard to stop the Huskies from scoring 70 or more points.

West Virginia doesn’t usually win games if they give up more than 75 points.  Coach Bob Huggins will devise a game plan to force UW’s big threats to work harder for open shots, and Washington will not reach 75 points in this game.

Prediction: West Virginia 73  Washington 66

 

South Regional

 

#3 Baylor (26.04) vs. #10 St. Mary’s (15.47)

This looks like a classic mismatch between a power team from a power conference and a team that should be just glad to have made it this far.  It could be, but we like the way St. Mary’s plays, and we think Coach Randy Bennett is possibly the next Lute Olsen if he so chooses to move on to a school from one of the Big Six conferences.

This will be a great battle between big men.  Baylor’s Ekpe Udoh and St, Mary’s Omar Samhan should balance each other out.  Samhan is a little better offensively, but Udoh is a little better defensively.  Samhan is the more likely to get in foul trouble.

Baylor has more potent weapons in LaceDarius Dunn and Tweety Carter, but the Gaels have more depth.  We just don’t see the Bears running away with this game.  We will pick them to advance.

Prediction: Baylor 78  St. Mary’s 71

 

#1 Duke (30.48) vs. #4 Purdue (15.37)

Credit must be given to the Boilermakers for making it this far without Robbie Hummel.  They played hard and won a couple of tough games.  Unfortunately, Purdue goes up against one of the big boys.  This is their final game of the season.

Duke may have fallen a notch in winning their first two games, but having to play the play-in winner lowered their strength of schedule.  Emptying the bench may have artificially lowered their criteria score, and we still think Coach K is sitting pretty with his club in a great bracket.

Prediction: Duke 81  Purdue 67

 

Midwest Regional

 

#2 Ohio State (22.24) vs. #6 Tennessee (21.16)

These may not be the two best teams left in the Big Dance, or even in this regional, but they may be the two best-coached teams.  Buckeye head guy Thad Matta has definitely produced a better record than his talent on hand should have produced, and Volunteer coach Bruce Pearl has squeezed every last drop of juice out of his big orange.

Two years ago, when Ohio State was the top-rated team, Tennessee built up a 20-point lead against OSU, before the Buckeyes chipped away and came back for the win in this same round.  Vol center Wayne Chism can remember that game well.

We look for this to possibly be the most entertaining game of this round, but we have to go with the Big Ten in this one.  Tennessee is having to go with players that would be considered bench-warmers at Ohio State for almost one quarter of the available playing time.  Pearl will either have to play five reserves for their usual 48 combined minutes per game or go with his top seven until they drop.  Either way, it tips the scale in favor of Brutus.

Prediction: Ohio State 69  Tennessee 63

 

#5 Michigan State (20.92) vs. #9 Northern Iowa (13.76)

This is another game where we have to discount a team for the loss of a player.  Spartan star guard Kalin Lucas is out for the rest of the year with a ruptured Achilles tendon.  He is the Spartans’ leading scorer, leader at getting to the foul line, leading passer, and best perimeter defender.  Losing him is almost like losing Magic Johnson. 

One thing MSU still has in its favor is a brutalizing inside force with a three-headed rebounding monster.  Raymar Morgan, Draymond Green, and Delvon Roe will see to it that Northern Iowa will not get many second-chance points.

Northern Iowa is primed to exploit MSU’s misfortune, but we expect the Panthers to come out flat following the huge upset over Kansas.  Jordan Eglseder is going to need help inside as the Spartans attempt to force their offense to score inside the paint.  Adam Koch cannot afford to risk foul trouble, so we see some difficulty here for NIU.  We also do not believe that Ali Farokhmanesh will drain threes all night in this game.  We can see him going 2 for 9.

It’s rather obvious that this is going to be a very low-scoring game, at least until the final minutes when one team may be getting a dozen trips to the foul line.

Prediction: Michigan State 56  Northern Iowa 51

 

 

West Regional

 

#1 Syracuse (27.88) vs. #5 Butler (19.35)

Quickness over brute force strength should be the difference in this game.  Syracuse has been flying a little bit under the radar so far, and the Orangemen are about to reveal to the rest of the nation that they are an Elite 8 team. 

Butler cannot be overlooked, as the Bulldogs are now the best team in the Hoosier state.  However, Butler doesn’t have the horses to exploit the cracks in the SU 2-3 matchup zone.  We see the Bulldogs going through stretches where they cannot score, and you can’t beat Syracuse that way.

A ‘Cuse win should set up the best Regional Final of the four, regardless of their opponent on Saturday.

Prediction: Syracuse 74  Butler 60

 

#2 Kansas State (31.21) vs. #6 Xavier (18.37)

Xavier has become a household name in the Big Dance, so it’s no longer much of a surprise to see the Musketeers advancing in this tournament.  They just happened to get the wrong team in the Sweet 16, because we just cannot see them matching up inside against the purple and white.  Kansas State can bring two wide-bodies off the bench, and the Wildcats’ guards can hit the glass as well.

The storyline of this game is that KSU will hold Xavier under 40% from the field and rarely give the Musketeers an offensive rebound.  Teams just don’t win in the Sweet 16 unless they can either control the boards of shoot a high percentage.

We look for the Wildcats to set up the game of the tournament in the West Regional Finals on Saturday.

Prediction: Kansas State 77  Xavier 61

 

Check back with us Saturday before game time for a preview of the Elite 8 Regional Final games.

 

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